Keywords: Welfare State; Social Entitlements; Distributive Politics; Political Exchange.
The article starts with a general discussion of how political science treats the question of «rights». In line with classical democratic theory (from max Weber and Schumpeter to Sartori and Dahl), the author argues that rights must be seen as «guaranteed powers». Special attention is paid to the approach of the Pavia School (Leoni, Albertini and in particular Mario Stoppino), which emphasizes the key role of rights in stabilizing and generalizing compliance within bounded fields of interaction. The main part of the article is devoted to a discussion of social entitlements qua a sub-type of rights. The guaranteed provision of transfers and services is crucial for equalizing opportunities and stabilizing life chances. In contemporary democracies, however, entitlements have become a key currency of electoral exchanges, often originating perverse effects in terms of fiscal sustainability and distributive fairness.